Fostering Community Through Multicultural Ministry: Distinguished Young Alum Sergio Aguirre
This year’s Distinguished Young Alum, Sergio Aguirre (’11), could navigate the short path from the Davidson dormitory to Corban’s prayer chapel in the dark. It was where he spent almost every night as a student. “Corban was a place of healing for me,” he remembers. “It provided so many spaces to be with the Lord, or be with other like-minded people that are in a similar spot.”
As a Corban student, Aguirre was no stranger to busyness. On top of a full class load, he served as a youth pastor, worship leader, and was in the military full time, pursuing chaplaincy. Each night he would write out his prayers in Spanish in the prayer chapel’s small leather journal, offering up the burdens of his busy day.
In his professional career, the busyness has not let up, but Aguirre’s commitment to prayer and to community remains the same. Aguirre currently serves as the Director of Intercultural Ministries with Church Venture Northwest (CVN), helping to train, equip, mentor, and empower the next generation of leaders by providing resources, discipleship and leadership training, and peacemaking ministries to ethnic churches throughout the Northwest. As a native Spanish speaker, Aguirre is helping CVN to bridge a critical gap in their ministry.
“The thing about intercultural ministries is that everything that we provide in English has to also be taken on in Spanish,” he says. “I travel and meet our ethnic churches and help them with their needs and try to be an encouraging brother in Christ.”
In addition to his role at CVN, Aguirre has also recently stepped into the role of Lead Pastor at West Salem Baptist Church, and serves on the leadership team for Mosaics PDX, an organization that seeks to “promote unity within and among churches of Jesus Christ across boundaries of race, class, culture, age, and gender.”
Across all of his many ventures, multiculturalism has been key to his ministry. The end goal? Fostering a close community of all believers, regardless of background. For Aguirre, the importance of this kind of community began to take shape during his time at Corban.
As a student, Sergio quickly began to find purpose on Corban’s campus. As he witnessed the University becoming more multicultural, even welcoming in students from many different countries, he saw a growing need for community connection. “I had the desire to connect with people who were kind of on the margins, not because they were treated that way, but because they were just in a new place,” he says. “I wanted to do what I could to help them get settled and have those conversations about their different experiences.”
Aguirre could often be found connecting the Corban community on campus. Aguirre’s college roommate, Cornelius, a student from Papua, Indonesia, would even come to stay with Aguirre’s family for major holidays. “The relationships at Corban are still one of the things I look back to,” Aguirre says. “And seeing Corban reaching out and the population beginning to look different, I could see they were really making an effort to represent the people that are in the community around them.”
For Aguirre, a graduate of Corban’s School of Ministry, another foundational element of his time at Corban came through the relationships and mentorships he enjoyed with his professors. “That felt like community for me,” he says. “I had always been seeking a group of men for mentorship, and I felt like I was getting that mentorship from all my professors in the ministry department. Walking down the hallway or seeing them on campus, I was always gaining from my experience of being around them.”
Now, as a professional and pastor himself, Aguirre engages in the same mentorship and discipleship opportunities on a daily basis.
Whether it be at as Director of Intercultural Ministries at CVN, as a pastor at West Salem Baptist, or through Mosaics PDX, Aguirre has noticed pastors and parishioners expressing a growing need to have what he would deem “conversations that are difficult and uncomfortable, but necessary.” As a result, he has witnessed Mosaics PDX, an organization that began in 2018 as a collaborative meeting of eight local pastors, expand to sessions of over 50 church leaders.
“We are seeking to facilitate conversations and collaborate with different churches and different leaders on current issues and speak the gospel into those issues,” says Aguirre. “Collaboration is so important for unity. It comes down to trying to understand each other and collaborate in conversation in a healthy way.”
With a seeming influx of difficult cultural issues currently permeating the church body, Aguirre and his fellow community leaders have begun to recognize the need for equipping individuals to engage these issues compassionately and competently. “My experience has been that, when you have a healthy leader leading those conversations, then you are usually going to produce healthy results,” he says. “Healthy disciples produce healthy leaders, and healthy leaders produce healthy churches, and those people get to impact businesses and home life and all the different spheres of influence that we get to be a part of.”
Aguirre recognizes that, for himself, sometimes this process simply requires the humility to be a listener. As a result of this attitude, he believes that the benefits are not only extended to himself, but to his congregation as well. “I’m more mindful about people in my community, even how I preach from the pulpit or how I interact with people who are different from me,” he says. “It’s brought a greater awareness and a level of love and respect to the idea of being made in the image of God, what that really looks like, and how I can influence other people to see that.”
Among the complexity and nuance in each distinct situation he encounters in the field of multicultural ministry, Aguirre finds comfort in the grounding truth of the Gospel. “It’s important to ask ourselves the question, ‘How might I be potentially becoming a barrier to the Gospel, and how can I change that in myself?’” he says. “It always goes back to the Gospel. If you love the Lord, you’re going to love your neighbor.”
As a community leader and Corban alum, Aguirre has also found himself with the opportunity to give back to his alma mater, speaking in chapel on the importance of multicultural ministry, and serving on the University’s Scripture and Truth cohort.
“Before I knew Sergio, I was so impressed to see the good work he was doing in helping the Hispanic churches of Church Venture Northwest grow and thrive,” says Corban President, Dr. Sheldon Nord. “It seemed like a big job for such a young man, but as I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve come to appreciate how mature and gifted he is, and how God is using him in mighty ways.”
While Sergio Aguirre’s recognition as Corban’s Distinguished Young Alum comes as little surprise to his community, Aguirre himself continues to point to his source. “In all of this, I give God the glory,” he says. “Because He is the one who is orchestrating my life and putting me in places where I can connect with people and love people. I’m not a person who enjoys recognition at all, but it’s a privilege to feel seen and loved. I’m just a small church pastor who is trying to be faithful.”